Increase in febrile illness among children in mainland China, winter 2023 - 2024


  • Joel Keep UNSW
  • Assoc Professor David Heslop UNSW, School of Population Health



Global Health Security, mycoplasma pneumoniae, RSV, COVID-19, international collaboration, China, health intelligence, political aspects


In late 2023, mainland China reportedly saw a rise in respiratory illnesses, primarily among children. Officials from the Chinese Center for Disease Control attributed this increase to the circulation of known pathogens, including influenza viruses, respiratory syncytial virus, SARS-CoV-2, and mycoplasma pneumoniae, to which the population had only limited exposure while strict “zero Covid” measures were enforced in recent years. However, outside observers raised concerns that a novel infectious agent could be circulating, and the World Health Organisation took the unusual step of publicizing a request for further information from Beijing. While no novel pathogen has been identified at the time of writing, this apprehension among the international press, and among some public health experts, is an instructive reminder of how unresolved issues relating to the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 in late 2019 continue to impact international public health. Such reactions suggest that the political control of epidemiological data in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a lasting impact on international collaboration, institutional trust and global health security. Resolving these issues is essential if the world is to be prepared for future infectious disease outbreaks of potential international concern.

Author Biography

Assoc Professor David Heslop, UNSW, School of Population Health

Dr David Heslop is an Associate Professor at the School of Population Health at UNSW Sydney, and a practicing vocationally registered General Practitioner (FRACGP), an Occupational and Environmental Physician (FAFOEM) with RACP.. He retains military responsibilities as Senior Medical Adviser for CBRNE to the Australian Army and to Australian Defence Force (ADF) leadership. During a military career of over 15 years he has deployed into a variety of complex and austere combat environments, and has advanced international training in Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) Medicine. He has experience in planning for and management of major disasters, mass casualty and multiple casualty situations. He is regularly consulted and participate in the development and review of national and international clinical and operational general military and CBRNE policy and doctrine. His research interests lie in health and medical systems innovation and research using computational modelling and simulation to address otherwise intractable problems.




How to Cite

Keep, J., & Heslop, D. (2024). Increase in febrile illness among children in mainland China, winter 2023 - 2024. Global Biosecurity, 6(1).



Watching Briefs
Received 2023-11-28
Accepted 2024-01-04
Published 2024-01-08